Learning to See – That important detail

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On a couple of occasions, I’ve been asked for informal advice about a legal matter. Sometimes it has been to do with employment law, once or twice about family law and often to do with immigration and asylum.  Often people start with a lengthy story of every single possible grievance or defence that might have about the other party.  I call this the “and another thing tactic.” They may shower me with lots of paperwork too.

I’ve also watched solicitors at work too.  Over a period of time I’ve seen the ones who get results and those where you get nowhere with. Let me tell you about the ones who take things nowhere. They spend all the time typing copiousness notes into their computer. They don’t even stop to look up and make eye contact. Some of you may have met doctors like that too. On the other hand, I’ve walked into a meeting room with a friend, we’ve sat down, the solicitor has looked them in they eye and said “so tell me what this is about.” The person has answered and with careful questioning, the solicitor has got to the nub of the issue. All the time they are showing that they are listening as they keep eye contact. Then they sit back and say something along the lines of “I think this is the important issue.” Then we are on track.

In the same way, when I’m being showered with information and grievance.  My advise back is to slow down.  The case is not going to be won by weight of information. Rather, what we need to do is two things. First, we need to identify what the essence of the case is, what is the main complaint? Then we need to identify the main evidence. There will be lots of supporting information and back up evidence to gather but initially, you are likely to identify one killer piece of information. It could be a single phrase in an email, a throw away comment, a fact about who was where at a specific time.  The point is that this may well be the one piece of information on which the whole case stands or falls.    It’s the evidence that sheds light on things and helps us to look at the matter from the right perspective.

This is true in all walks of life. It’s often true in politics, there is one killer fact on which a career stands or falls. It’s true in church life too when thinking about pastoral care and even the sad matter of church discipline. It is easy to get distracted by lots of information so that we cannot see the wood for the trees. Good pastoral care will include learning to be sharp, to be good observers and able to weigh things carefully to discern what is important.

Such a gift to spot these things often comes with patience, gentleness and curiosity. So pray for those characteristics


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